Most everyone I know is talking about how “stressed out” they are already feeling about the holidays and shopping. Even those who have decided to spend less and avoid using credit still lament that the season is not particularly joyful or relaxing as they plan for decorations, gifts and meals. This of course makes me wonder what we are doing when we create angst in order to “enjoy” the season. It seems that we are torn between the desire to “wind down” as the end of the year approaches and the urge to join the frenetic pace of the holiday season.
Having opted out of holiday gift giving several years ago, this is a very obvious choice for me; I am winding down. Certainly I will attend a few holiday celebrations, after all some of the best food of the year will be available and I have almost worked off all of my turkey meal from Thanksgiving. Other than that, I will be watching the old black and white holiday movies, taking a stroll in the park, knitting, and trying to keep my exercise regimen on track. I decided to take this opportunity to set my intentions for 2011 and immediately “KISS” – “Keep it simple” (there is another word for the last “S” but I refuse to utter that one) came to mind.
I am currently reading “A Weekend to Change Your Life” by Joan Anderson and she describes a “calendar exercise” that she offers during retreats as a way to reflect on the past year and to determine the impact that our busy lives have on our well-being. The first step is to write down everything you remember from the past year: events, activities and anything that stands out to you. Once you have this list, you annotate the list with:
- Square around anything that was exhausting;
- Triangle around anything that was invigorating;
- Heart around things you did with a family member or loved one; and
- Circle around anything that was just for you
This step is the foundation for the most important question of all: “How do you feel about the past year?”
I use a method similar to this with my financial coaching clients and it is a wonderful way to look at your financial life in review.
You start by gathering all of your bank and credit card statements and, using this simple method, determine how you feel about the financial choices you have made over the past year. Begin by placing:
- “N” by your needs;
- “W” by the wants;
- “?” if you don’t remember; and finally
- “r” next to the purchases you would rather not have made.
If you are happy with the financial choices you have made and the results are consistent with your financial goals, congratulations and keep up the good work! If you find that there are some things you would like to do differently consider getting a jump on your planning for 2011 with a few simple steps:
- Determine and write down your financial goals for the upcoming year.
- Decide on which budget tracker you want to use for the coming year (I like mint.com and hellowallet.com).
- Set up an annual budget in addition to the monthly (including all periodic expenses like car registration and repairs, medical dental co-pays and gifts).
- Create the organizational system that supports you following through with your intentions.
- Find a “budget buddy” who shares your commitment to being mindful with their financial choices and set up monthly check-ins.
Living well with our finances doesn’t have to be stressful or painful. We can decide how we want to plan and manage our money, learn the skills we need to make good choices and get expertise or support when we need it. If what you are doing now doesn’t support your financial goals don’t wait for a new year’s resolution to start something new, create a new plan and don’t forget to “KISS.”
President & CEO
Sage Financial Solutions
San Francisco, CA